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Manhattan Track Team Fosters Young Runners' Need For Speed

 Ron Guialdo said the coaching and seriousness of the sport is what helps the Chelsea Greyhounds compete nationally.
Ron Guialdo said the coaching and seriousness of the sport is what helps the Chelsea Greyhounds compete nationally.
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Pascal Bernier

INWOOD — The coach of a recreational track and field team is inviting all kids with a need for speed to step onto the track. 

Ron Guialdo, the founder of the Inwood-based Chelsea Greyhounds track team, is hosting a three week-long speed camp in Chelsea Park this month.

"Our team is a serious team," Guialdo said. "We travel. We've been all over the place to compete and I think the kids really like that." 

Guialdo noted that the Greyhounds returned from the University of Kansas this past Sunday night after competing for a week at the Junior Olympics, where two of the team members won All-American medals.

The speed workshops will be open to all kids between the ages of 7 and 18, and not just team members. The camps run Monday through Thursday, Aug. 7 through 24, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Exercises will include timed shuttle runs, pushups, leg warmups and workouts oriented toward strength-building. The cost of the speed camp is $250 per week.

"We work on increasing speed, increasing the running and sprinting form," Guialdo said. "We start from there and then build strength." 

Sarah Durham, whose 13-year-old daughter Charlotte joined the Greyhounds last year, said she struggled to find a team for her daughter in Northern Manhattan. Durham said her daughter was motivated to find and even start a team of her own, until she came across the Greyhounds. 

“We had no idea what we were getting into… but we joined,” Durham said with a laugh. “It’s been completely transformative.”

Durham said her daughter enjoys being part of a team and that the training has helped her get much stronger.

“This past week, she’s been going to Columbia [Baker Field] and doing full practice on her own,” her mother said. 

The Greyhounds — comprised of 20 students between the ages of 7 to 18 — were founded seven years ago in Chelsea, when Guialdo lived with his family in the area and decided to start coaching his oldest son in Chelsea Park. 

“People would walk by and see me training him, and they would ask if they could bring their kids — and that’s how it started,” said the coach, who hails from a track family in The Bronx. 

The team moved Uptown about two years ago, when his family moved to Inwood, and it practices in Columbia University's Baker Field, Inwood Hill Park and the Armory Track. There are still students from Chelsea on the team, but a lot more Uptown residents have joined the roster this past year, noted Guialdo’s wife, Kristine.

Guialdo said he learned to run from his mother — a track star in her native Trinidad — who would place a broomstick in between chairs and a mattress in their courtyard for him and his siblings to practice jumping over.

It was this same discipline and hard work that he brought into training his own son and the other kids in the neighborhood, Guialdo said.

And while Guialdo collects a monthly fee of $45 from students, he said he's kept the cost low to support those who can't afford to join a team.

"I'm straight with the kids. I don't favor anyone," he said. "They're learning things about life at a very early age — how to compete and lose, and the hard work shows."

Guialdo said that in addition to training the team physically, he also focuses on encouraging the kids mentally and showing them examples of “what a person is capable of doing.”

“We make them believe they can be there,” he explained. “We show them some of the most extreme things of what human beings are capable of — the jumping and running. I say to them, ‘You can’t put walls for yourself. Look at what this person is capable of doing.’ They see it for themselves.”